Top 70 Best Desert Landscaping Ideas – Drought Tolerant Plants
The desert often gets a bad rep in comparison to its lush green counterparts. When we think landscaping, it’s usually within the context of flora & fauna; of woodland surroundings or tropical havens.
However, the desert holds a striking beauty of its own, and many are reassessing the potential of their own arid abode.
The desert contains a wealth of plant and floral life, as well as unique regional stones and artifacts that, when combined, make up an otherworldly realm of beauty and style-setting nuance. From the many-shaped cacti to a wash of warm reds and yellows, you truly have a wealth of options when it comes to plotting your own desert landscape which can give your home some incredible curb appeal.
Wildflowers can add a touch of the Eden sensibility to an array of stones and pebbles, while multi-scaled cactus creations proudly declare their South Western origins. Because desert plants are sturdier in nature than, say, the traditional English garden variety, your backyard will be as low maintenance as it is unforgettable.
The desert has long attracted those seeking an alternative beauty, a beauty which is as strong as it is resilient. Here we show you the best desert landscape ideas are not for the uninspired or unimaginative, but for the man who sees what the average soul overlooks. We’ll first look at what plants and trees you can put in your desert garden before looking at some unique ideas.
Sprawling or scaled down, your desert property is your chance to show the world that paradise comes in all colors, textures, and climates. Get ready to be inspired!
Perhaps the most versatile plant when it comes to desert landscaping ideas is agaves. These plants are known for forming in a rosette pattern and having strong fleshy leaves. They are fairly compact which makes them perfect for dotting around your yard or you can place them in a planter. They work as a colorful alternative to shrubs and cacti while adding some great aesthetics.
Aloes can look similar to some agaves but don’t have quite the same compact rosette pattern. They usually have strong and thick leaves which grow straight out or up. They are often quite spiky and have a bit more volume than agaves and are therefore better for filling out more space. As with the agave, they can work well in a panter or more compact spaces.
You don’t get a more striking desert plant than a cactus. There are many different types out there and they can dominate the space while giving amazing curb appeal. They are great for a wide number of reasons, including creating a focal point for your garden. Here we take a closer look at the best types for your yard.
When people think of desert cacti, they probably picture the saguaro. These are tall types of cactus that branch out after the base. They take up plenty of area so they are probably best for when you want them to dominate a yard. These features also make them a great option for when you have a large area to landscape.
4. Columnar Cactus
In terms of bespoke landscaping, the columnar cactus is brilliant. This type grows straight up in a cylinder which means you can have a perfectly sculpted and neat landscape. There are a few varieties but some of them can grow to be fairly tall. Some of them also develop branches but these can be cut off if you wanted to have more control over the shape.
5. Prickly Pear Cactus
While the columnar cactus is great for those who want to design a structured landscape, the prickly pear cactus is ideal for those who are happy to be a little wilder. These grow freely towards the sun and end up with large flat branches rather than growing out in cylinders. They are one of the most visually striking types of cactus.
6. Golden Barrel Cactus
The golden barrel cactus is a landscaper’s dream. They are very easy to control and simple to maintain. They are also the cutest type of cactus as they grow into a little ball. These qualities make them a great option for anyone wanting to create great lines or a particular pattern. Creating areas with several of these cacti smattered around can look brilliant.
Their versatility makes them equally good for ground cover or leading up to a porch. Due to their pretty and cute design, they will help with a home’s curb appeal while not being too difficult to either plant or maintain. They also compliment other types of greenery too such as shrubs or different types of grass.
7. Organ Pipe Cactus
As with the prickly pear cactus, these are great if you wanted something a little more untamed. Here the cactus grows straight up in single columns but with several clumped together at the same time. Due to this, they also take up a bit more space. Their height makes them good for the edges of a walkway or at the entrance to a patio.
While not a cactus, the ocotillo can be used for the same types of area. They look brilliant with their twisted and contorted stems reaching out to the sky. They get their name from the Spanish for “little torch” as in the spring they have red flowers that bloom for their tips. If you wanted a backyard landscaping idea that was a little different from a standard cactus, then plant an ocotillo.
9. Desert palm trees
The easiest way to fill a large outdoor space is with trees. If you have a large yard when a tree can be a great focal point in which to plant smaller shrubs or grass. If you don’t want to wait a couple of decades for a fully grown tree, then there are companies out there that sell and deliver trees in a wide variety of sizes. It can be an instant way to dramatically improve your curb appeal.
Just because you have a desert garden, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have colorful flowers. A backyard design with these flowers can add splashes of red, purple and yellow into your garden. There are plenty of small plants out there which can handle the lack of water and intense sunshine. Your options for native plants are quite wide. Amazing options for flowering plants include Mexican or Californian poppies, desert marigold, fairy duster, lupine, and brittlebush.
An alternative to wildflowers are flowering shrubs and evergreen shrubs which can also add some great color to your garden design. Both are ways to develop a beautiful flower garden.
11. Ornamental Grass
When it comes to DIY landscaping, ornamental grass is a great idea. It’s ideal for those who are looking for low maintenance landscaping options. You won’t be short of options with the likes of blue fescue which has a stunning blue color, Muhlenbergia which grows into a cute ball, or pampas if you wanted something larger and more voluminous. While plants and shrubs may dominate your backyard landscaping ideas, don’t overlook beautiful grass.
12. Red Pancake (Paddle Plant)
Succulent plants and shrubs are a great idea for your yard but none are more beautiful than the paddle plant. Those who want more color, you may have found that red plants are hard to come by. The red pancake is perfect at breaking up a green and stone landscape and is sure to catch the eye of any guest what is in your backyard.
13. Fire pit
Trying to develop lush color in the desert can be a very difficult task. That’s where you can look for an alternate idea to make the space stand out. One of the best ways to do that is with a fire pit. They can be incredible visual structures but are also great for socializing. Having a fire pit surrounded by some hardy plants can give you a wonderful area to chill out.
14. Flower bed
Just because you’re in the desert, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a flower bed. There are plenty of desert wildflowers that can give you a splash of colors in your planter. Added to that, you can also get hens and chicks or agaves that also come in a wide variety of color options. A garden bed is ideal if you wanted to care for potted plants and also if you have a small yard. As we’ve seen above, you’re not short on options if you wanted a planter.
15. Yard boulders
One easy and effective way to landscape in a desert garden is with a rock garden. You can use these to break up the landscape while also adding some height variety. As desert plants rarely sprawl out, having some boulders in place can help to fill up the space and prevent it from looking bare. They are great for those looking for less planting and more of a hardscape.
Boulders work well for those looking to dominate blank space as you may do with climbing vines on a retaining wall. They work best for backyard landscaping when you have a large yard due to their size. They can also be striking at either side of a patio.
While it’s hard to create a lush green garden with your desert landscape, you can turn that to you advantage with some unique landscaping ideas. Having plants that are easy to control allows you to create your own patterns. These can be straight lines or you can opt for something a little more extravagant. Instead of randomly placing your plants, you can do something much more structured.
17. Pea Gravel
To add some color and texture to your landscape, you can throw down some pea gravel or other type of small stone. This will cover up the bare soil which is never the most attractive look. The benefit here is that you can get gravel in many different types of colors so you can let your imagination go wild. An alternative to the sides of a walkway is to use colorful mulch.
18. Large Stones
An easy landscaping idea to cover a large area are large decorative stones. They easily cover a medium sized area, with mulch again being an effective solution for this. It’s a good solution for those who want a simple backyard and want to keep their landscaping design fairly minimal. The difference between pea gravel or larger stones is purely down to personal choice.
19. Artificial Grass
Having deep green grass in the desert means almost constant watering. Instead of putting all of that time and effort into your grass, you can take a shortcut. Artificial grass is quite easy to lay down and you’ll never need to worry about watering or cutting your lawn ever again.
Artificial lawn looks great and many modern options have a very realistic feel. It works great as a play area, somewhere to relax, or just for aesthetic reasons as you can have a big block of lush lawn amind the desert landscape.
20. Paved Pathways
Using a paving stone allows you to make effective walkways while making them aesthetically pleasing. It’s one of the best backyard ideas if you wanted to stroll around your garden. They work well with a patio and you’ll have a wide range of designs to choose from. This type of walkway looks great with colored stone and plants on either side.
21. Desert Pool
An oasis in the desert has long been a plot point in many movies and TV shows. You can create your own desert paradise with a pool surrounded by the plants and shrubbery of your choice. Mixed in with the harsh desert climate, having a pool such as this can be your own little slice of paradise.
23. Large Stone Slabs
A simple landscaping idea is to use large stone slabs. Using large pavers is a very easy way to create a large walkway or a patio. They can be easier to maintain than stones and they don’t have the same level of complexity as a paved pathway. With large pavers, you can just flatten the ground and lay them down for something that looks great, especially when surrounded by mulch or smaller stones.
24. Stone Trails
Stone tails are a perfect solution if you have a small yard but work well with any type of garden. This backyard landscaping idea allows you to have a contrast of stone colors and something quite eye-catching.